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Why pointing matters so much

Now that the #3 is with the sail loft to be re-cut, I’ve been looking back on raceQs data, other notes I’ve been keeping, and doing a little trigonometry. Here are some interesting facts:

  1. On an average race we spend about 60% of our time sailing upwind
  2. For each degree of pointing ability, we sail 1.5% to 2.5% less distance upwind.
  3. We are typically sailing 10% more distance upwind than Battlewagon, but sailing about 5% faster than them, which makes us fall behind them on the beats.
  4. For a race of about an hour long, each degree of pointing would save between 30 seconds and 50 seconds (assuming we didn’t sail any slower — debatable)
  5. Which means that 7 degrees of pointing could translate into nearly 5 minutes off our time.
  6. And looking back, that often would have been enough to catch Top Gun.

So, can we point 7 degrees higher?

With the #3, I’m convinced.  In fact, on Thursday, we did point 7 degrees higher than June 2nd and June 7th, using the same sail. (Note: we did this when the main wasn’t reefed, and was mostly powered up).  On June 2nd, we finished 6th, but could have been third, and on June 7th, we finished 5th, but could have finished second, if we were pointing like Thursday night!  And now that we are getting the #3 re-cut into a flatter shape, we should be able to point a few more degrees higher, and shave another minute or two off our time.

Why will re-cutting the jib help?  Four reasons:

  1. A finer entry, means the tell-tales will fly properly when sailing closer to the wind
  2. Shallower shape means the jib will be less powerful, so that we can power up the mainsail more fully in the strong wind, and sail just as fast (maybe even faster).
  3. Using the mainsail for power improves pointing, since the force is generated behind the center of balance of the boat
  4. More control over weather helm to keep the rudder from creating drag — should also translate into speed.

So, I’m very optimistic about the performance we’ll have with the new #3 once its re-cut.  Can’t wait for another windy night to try it out!

With the #1, the story depends on the wind speed.

When the wind is low (<7 knots), we’ve been competing well with a very soft rig, generating a lot of boat speed, not quite pointing as high as the rest of the fleet.  June 23rd was a good example, when we were second to the windward mark after Sabotage, and kept that second place all the way to the leeward mark when I made a big tactical blunder.

We haven’t had as many races in the 10-15 knots range, so there is still room to optimize.  At the upper end of that range, it may make sense to drop to the #3, since I’ve noticed that leeway becomes a big factor with the #1 in higher wind without the main fully powered — the gusts push our bow down rather than up.

Of course, this is the wind zone where a #2 genoa would be just the ticket. (Nice and flat with a tight rig)

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